Gail said last night’s 2-1 extra-time victory by the England women’s national football team, known as the Lionesses, truly was a case of football coming home and completed what the Dick,Kerr Ladies started.
Gail from Bamber Bridge, author of ‘In A League Of Their Own The Dick,Kerr Ladies 1917- 1965’ said: “It meant everything. Women’s football is just amazing. I never doubted from before they kicked a ball they were going to win. I just had a feeling it was meant to be after everything that women’s football has been through. I honestly believe the script was written in December 1921 just after the FA (Football Association ban (on women’s football). Karma has done what she’s supposed to do. The result was right last night….and who better to play than the old adversary Germany after 1966? It was the perfect conclusion to everything that women’s football has been through.”
Despite her premonition Gail added: “I was on the edge of my seat because it was exciting. I was standing up waiting for the final whistle. I had been channelling the Dick, Kerr ladies in. I had Alice Kell in defence, Jesie Walmsley mid-field and Jennie Harris and Flo Redford up front….so we had it covered!”
She continued: “I hardly slept a wink all night and the phone has been going mad this morning with media (queries). Everybody wanted to talk about the Dick,Kerr Ladies and history. For me it’s massive for the Dick,Kerr Ladies….I think when you know the history and what happened with women’s football I think where we are now is where the Dick,Kerr Ladies left off in the 1920s...This success for women’s football isn’t new. We have a history going back over 100 years. What happened with Dick,Kerr Ladies is no less important than what’s happened with women’s football now.”
But despite the euphoria surrounding England’s success in the EURO championship she said she had sadly seen some some derogatory comments about women’s football on Twitter and noted: “I think we still need to change some people’s opinions.”
Looking to the future Gail hopes to see more people watching women’s and girls’ football on a regular basis. She said : “They don’t simply play every four years or big tournaments.They are playing in Women’s Super League and national league and the next tier down. We need to get people going along to watch ...We need to get more equality for girls in school playing football. I hear stories of young girls not being allowed to play (football) at school. We need now to have a level playing field for boys and girls playing football like there is with other things and let girls play if they want to…it’s not all about elites and playing for England... We have to give people the opportunity to train but they have to have somewhere to go to put the work in.”
The 69 year old retired local government officer who used to play football for Preston Rangers said tribute was also due to those who had kept and keep girls’ and ladies’ football clubs and sessions going, often for love not money. She recalled how when she played the game in the Preston area everything was self-funded : “We used to get changed in an old chicken hut at Catforth and had an (old) oil drum, for a toilet. We used to run the league and clubs and we were all self-funded..That’s what this is about - everybody being remembered.”
It is 30 years since Gail, who was made an Honorary Fellow of UCLan for her work championing the famous team, organised the first reunion of the Dick,Kerr Ladies. She decided to research and write a book about the team because she feared the local women’s pivotal and pioneering role in football was in danger of being forgotten. Already out in paperback Gail used lockdown to review, update and add to her book.
By a happy coincidence of timing her book was published in hardback for the first time last week. She said: ”I’m thrilled about that. It’s self published and print on demand and costs £34.99 in hardback. It’s 453 pages with everything you ever need to know about the Dick,Kerr Ladies.”
Gail had been contemplating a hardback edition to mark the 30th anniversary of the team reunion and said: “The publisher got i touch with me before I got in touch with them ...it’s just another thing that’s meant to be.”
Dick, Kerr Ladies F.C. was one of the earliest women's association football teams in England. The team remained in existence until 1965, despite the FA ban. Gail played for Preston Rangers WFC and in 1986 set up The Lancashire Trophy, an international Women's Football Tournament. It was at the Lancashire Trophy in August 1992, that the Dick, Kerr Ladies were re-united for the first time in almost 40 years. Gail has also written a paperback book for children ‘Dick, Kerr Ladies: Football’s Forgotten Legends’ published by UCLan Publishing.